5 Over 50: 2018

From the November/December 2018 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

Maw Shein Win, author of Invisible Gifts, published in April by Manic D Press.


Are You in the Room With Me Now?

My therapist asked why I never cry.
I ask myself the same, closing my eyes.
A small sty in my vision.

As hard as I tried not to cry,
I was shy as a child. As I crossed the street
with mother, I hid behind her lab coat.

My throat taut and
tight. I thought I might cry.
The other night I lost my sight.

I could hear a couple on the crosswalk.
A man doing a handstand.
Two kids making plans.

Perhaps a chance to dance
in another place. I could cross the state
line. Cry at the sight of a shimmering lake.

My therapist asked:
What are you thinking?
How does that make you feel?
Where did that come from
and are you in the room with me now?

In Rio, there is a majestic cross on a
cliff. People live in pink paper shacks below.
I danced and I drank there.
I thought I might die there.
I crossed myself although I didn’t believe.

You sweat silver tears.
You see through pink paper walls.
You think your body might be crying now.


Dust and Smoke

He doesn’t know I’m in the den. I am 12. I face his back. He sits in the  chair. He smokes Kent 100’s. He drinks. His rack of top twenty singles  on the wall. He has headphones on. I smell the smoke. It hurts my eyes.  I am barefoot. This is his room. The brown vinyl loveseat. The records  on the shelf: Joni, Bob, Carly. My hair is short. I have bangs. The blinds  are closed. The light coming through. Trail of smoke is a fairy wing.

Her father alone. In a studio. A door to a hut. Some white dust from the  street. The white dust comes through the openings in the walls. He waits  for the phone to ring. Dust on the photo of her sisters, her brother. Dust  on his white hair. His belly protrudes but his arms are sticks. Hershey’s  chocolate bars from Sav-On in his fridge. Chicken curry with potatoes  in plastic container. Dust on the table. Phone without sound. The street  with the voices. Heads that don’t look up. 


Flower Instructions

Blanket streets with plum blossoms.
Rest body against warm concrete.
Find rose petals on sidewalk.
Glimmer of the memory garden.

Follow the trail of invisible bees.
Nectar guides for the lost ones.
Fling lasso into summer darkness.
Hear whistles and megaphone.

Hold body close to body.
Breathe in the greenhouse.
Wear wet glitter and silver hose.
Lick salt on skin.

Catch whispers in libraries.
Greet strangers with acorns and grapefruit.
Remember eyes, ghosts, smoke.
Watch brothers as they disappear.

Imagine a new world.
Keep sisters close.


The Misfortunes of Guan Yin

an oyster, still, in brackish waters
sound of fallen blankets, di sotto in su
three-chambered heart pumps transparent blood 

the misfortunes of Guan Yin
her eleven heads and thousand arms
eat up the master

the daughter captive in the enclosed porch
father hides in the bushes
a scar on the girl’s arm from a willing branch

calcified valves shelter fleshy
matter bony tongues and coffinfish encircle
the sea stars and spat

strangers and pilgrims offer snapdragons
and chocolate coins wrapped in gold paper
the mangrove roots have lost control

the sound of watermen scraping the
sound of beating cilia holding   
containing     opening     closing

nacre covers grit: mother-of-pearl
the evolution of an irritant
Russian blue, milk white

emerald green sash across her reedy
frame mottled skin across neck, shoulders
a girl dancing in the garden of her mind


You Will Be With Me in a Town Called Paradise

The sound of horns and bells, the sound of
round crowns and brown birds, blue bells.

You will be with me in a town called Paradise with a slice
of cake, cluster of cherries, champagne on ice. 

The night we met, a New Year’s Eve party, a talent show.
Someone pretends to be a stork, another pop of a cork.

Your clear eyes and warm head. I couldn’t hear your eyes, 
but I could see your voice. Is paradise this bed? 

Two cotton blankets and a comforter on my side, 
a light sheet on yours. Bluebells on the dresser.

You touch the cat’s fur, orange beneath the chin, 
she leaps off your chest. We rest for a while.


From Invisible Gifts by Maw Shein Win, published by Manic D Press. Copyright © 2018 by Maw Shein Win. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.